Electric company goes eco-unfriendly

The electric bill arrived today, for the first time in a plastic envelope.

Granted, typical mailboxes here are anything but watertight, but does Uruguay really need a million or more extra bits of plastic going into landfills every month?

Uruguay utility bill in plastic envelope

No Silent Spring – just missing spring

Neighbors in the country tell me there is no spring here anymore – winter ends and summer starts.

After a few hours in the country, gathering poles from slash piles across the road, cutting up storm-damaged trees and hauling them, disassembling a collapsing pig house (the word chancho – pig – also refers to the traffic police, preferably not to their faces), I return to the coast.

In my downstairs office (a 90×90 cm table with two shelves next to a window), a cool breeze blows through. I take dogs to the beach for the first time in several days, wearing a light hoodie, in case the breeze is cooler there.

Not a chance. The beach is hot, and equally littered with sun worshippers, surfcasting fishermen, and plastic trash. It’s not summer, so the beach cleanup patrol doesn’t come through first thing in the morning. The amount of trash amazes me: looks like a garbage barge was scuttled offshore.

Storm

Shortly before we returned to Uruguay, a powerful storm swept through. Here’s just one of many similar scenes:

Storm damage, Atlántida, Uruguay

On the ground in front you see a concrete power pole that supported the intersection of wires now hanging in the air, all knocked about by the large eucalyptus in the background.

By all accounts, it was a most exciting time 😉

Strange weather

The cold yielded yesterday: 100% saturated warm air that kept mopped floors wet all day, that condensed onto cold surfaces untouched by a mop. By afternoon thunderstorms rolled over, and we unplugged, plugged, unplugged again – everything, but first and foremost the phone line to the DSL modem. When that goes, you can’t just waltz by the office and get another. You wait and wait and wait on the phone along with everyone else, then you wait for a technician to come and swap the modem. Last time it took 11 days.

When the rain stopped, the low clouds remained, catching the light of the setting sun and turning everything incredibly yellow – then incredibly orange. We watched in amazement. I didn’t take photos. I knew they wouldn’t do it justice.

Then I was siting with my laptop at the kitchen island, and did an abrupt double-take. The yard outside the sliding glass doors had disappeared into black. One minute it was still day; only moments later it was night, as if someone cut off a light switch.

Had I been outside, I probably could have watched the shadow race past overhead, the line between light and dark on the top surface of the low clouds, lighting below as though through frosted glass. Next time, if ever?

Today we have just fog.

Ah, tropical Uruguay!*

frost

-1°C this morning in Montevideo; 93% humidity. Heavy frost in the front yard (none in the enclosed back yard where my latest planting of cilantro has just peeped out of the earth). It’s been a month since the chimney cleaner didn’t clean our chimney . I got some slabs of steel cut to replace the bricks he broke in the wood stove; just installed them this morning. Who knows when, or if, the guy will ever return. It’s Uruguay.

As I mentioned before, most houses here are neither well insulated nor well-heated. I’m sitting next to single-pane windows set into single-brick walls. I finally wised up and put a small heater under my desk; it helps. As do multiple layers of clothing.


* no one claims Uruguay has tropical weather, but some people apparently have that impression.

When the rain comes

When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads. They might as well be dead.

~ Rain, John Lennon

It rained much of the night, and the morning was unpleasantly rainy still. Our son went to catch a bus to his class in Montevideo.

There were no buses.

No strike, no holiday; simply no buses on the road in ugly weather.

My wife called the friend who agreed to translate for her at the hairdresser. Let’s do this another time, the woman said, it’s ugly today. This despite door-to-door transportation.

Perhaps the bus drivers knew no one would go anywhere, so they stayed home too.

My best guess is that people here have learned to avoid the risk of getting wet, and consequently chilled, because homes here aren’t built to be warm. There is evidence that this has a historical basis (1897):

In the winter, their surroundings are equally pretentious, but very uncomfortable, for the houses of Montevideo are as frigid as the white marble in which they are finished. The people believe artificial heat unhealthy, and in this city, which is as large as Washington, and quite as cold, there is not a furnace or a steam-heating plant. During cold snaps, a hostess often receives dressed in furs, with her hands in a muff and her feet on a hot-water bottle, and gentlemen and ladies come to state dinners in over-coats and fur capes. Source

It’s March – autumn returns

autumn_sky

Cool wind this morning. Time to wear shoes and socks again after happy months of flip-flops.

As a kid, I loved autumn crispness, new clothes and return to new adventures in school. Now it seems more a chore: order firewood, figure out how to clean the stove pipe, clean up garden. Stay warm. Wear shoes to the beach.

Autumn in the months that ~should~ be spring — still weird, the third time around.

Volatility

Brisk westerly blow-cap-off-your-head breeze during my grounding walk on the beach this morning. A degree or two lower and I would want a windbreaker over my t-shirt. Only a few days ago, wearing a t-shirt if you didn’t have to was crazy, given the heat and humidity.

The climate is volatile, the economy is volatile, the social mood is volatile – the last I know from reading, not direct experience. For now, Uruguay remains tranquilo.